Constant design work in the lighting industry for more than 29 years has made designer Doyle Crosby of Boyd Lighting an expert in modern residential and commercial lighting design. If you ever wondered how a lighting designer works, lives and where the inspiration comes from, check out this Q&A:
Pursuitist: How and why did you become part of the Boyd Lighting design team?
Doyle Crosby: I had degrees in English Literature, Philosophy, Psychology and Religious Studies. I worked in mental health for a few years before I realized that it was not the right field for me. I hated not being able to see the results of my work. After a stint in Oregon making tables to sell at craft fairs, I moved back to California to join a rock band. I got a day job for a while making custom electric guitars and basses. Eventually, I found myself in need of money to buy music equipment and I decided to look for a daytime career that I would enjoy. I read What Color Is Your Parachute enrolled in a career change class and took the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory Exam in an effort to determine the best path to take. The results all pointed me toward design. I went back to school to study Industrial Design. At the end of my second semester, I asked my drafting teacher if he knew where I could get a job for the summer. He sent me to Boyd Lighting. I worked my way up from draftsman to Designer/Engineer to Design Director. I have now been here for 29 years.
Boyd Lighting offers me a unique opportunity because quality in design, materials and manufacturing is what we are all about. Aesthetics, performance and craftsmanship are key in everything we produce. We don’t skimp or cut corners. We go the extra mile to attend to the details. Our focus is on elegance, sophistication, refinement and substance; and we place a high premium on originality and innovation in both aesthetics and function. This gives me freedom to do things that I could not do elsewhere. I really feel like I was born to do this.
Pursuitist: What made you choose light design out of all the other opportunities?
Doyle Crosby: I fell into it by chance but it really felt like a great fit. I love the interplay between form, materials and play of light. I also love designing things that function both as a means to provide light and as a decorative object. I am very much drawn both to the aesthetic and technical aspects and I love finding new ways to do things. I would say some of my designs are actually inventions too.
I believe it is important to be aware of the difference between Design and Art. Art is about self expression; Design is about customer satisfaction. Self expression can play an important role in design, but it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That being said, designing light fixtures, especially here at Boyd Lighting, involves somewhat more opportunity for self expression than many other areas of design. With decorative lighting, the aesthetics are actually an essential part of the function and purpose of the product—in some cases, the primary part.
Pursuitist: Where do you draw inspiration from for your creations?
Doyle Crosby: I have drawn inspiration from everything from jewelry to buildings to scuffs on the bathroom floor. But, I would say that the main thing I look at is context. I want whatever I am designing to fit into the spaces that our clients are creating or augmenting. So I look at what is going on in interior design. I look at spaces and furnishings (and sometimes artwork). That is often what sparks new ideas. I avoid looking at current offerings in the light fixture market because we want our designs to be unique. I do sometimes get ideas from antique fixtures.
I also look at current design trends. When I see a new movement arising, I try to immerse myself in it and locate for myself what is essential to it. I then try to strip down and refine whatever there is about it that appeals to me. I usually try to present that in a form that is somewhat familiar or classical. I try to walk the line between edgy and comfortable—pushing the envelope without going over the top. For me, design is, in part, a balancing act. We want to excite our customers with something new and different, but we don’t want to scare them away.
Pursuitist: You received many awards for your designs. Which award-winning project was the most challenging and why?
Doyle Crosby: The Tilt-36 adjustable pendant was pretty challenging. I set out to design a suspended downlight that could be tilted in any direction in order to aim the light wherever one chooses. I developed a moveable, lockable mechanism that keeps the weight evenly distributed between the four suspension cables, no matter what direction the lamp housing is pointed. The housing was designed around the source. The glass disc supports the lamp housing, terminates the cables and provides weight and stability. The unit moves very smoothly. There was a lot of head scratching and trial and error involved in that one.
Pursuitist: How does family life influence your work?
Doyle Crosby: My family gives me a foundation and keeps my feet on the ground. It gives meaning to my life and makes me whole. I have a lovely wife and two bright, raucous boys—one is 12 and one is 14. I do work that I love to provide for the people I love, and for that I feel blessed. Knowing that the kids aren’t through college yet definitely motivates me to try harder.
My younger son is influencing me even as I write this. He came to the office with me today and he is asking me questions, proposing design ideas and showing me material samples. I am humbled by the things he comes up with. I’m pretty damned proud too.
My older boy is the wordsmith in our family. He is very sharp witted and that can also be pretty humbling at times. I’m very proud of him as well.
I often use my wife as a spring board for new ideas. She also keeps me aware of both my limitations and my strengths like nobody else ever could. And of course, when things aren’t going well, she is my refuge.
Pursuitist: What does a usual workday mean to you?
Doyle Crosby: I spend the biggest share of my time either at my computer using CAD and modeling software or at my work table sketching or building things. I use the internet to do research and watch current trends. I also spend part of my time interacting with our engineers, vendors, the Marketing and Sales departments, the Director of Operations and the CEO. I go out into the outside world on occasion and take a look at showrooms, new buildings and museums.
Pursuitist: How would you characterize your design work in five words?
Doyle Crosby: I don’t know if I can accurately characterize my own work. Five things I strive for are: beauty, elegance, refinement, impeccable proportions, and numinosity (I am a fan of Carl Jung).
Pursuitist: From idea to finished product – how does a design become a lighting fixture ready to go on the market?
Doyle Crosby: New concepts are presented to our selection team. This is a cross-functional group which provides perspectives from Marketing, Sales, Engineering and Manufacturing, and Design (that would be me). Our CEO Jay Sweet makes the final product selection decisions, informed by the teams input. Products that are selected for development go to the engineering department and are assigned to a product engineer. There is interaction between the designer and the engineer as the assembly drawing and part drawings are produced. A prototype is made, tested and sent back to the selection team for review. At that point, it is either accepted, rejected or sent back to engineering for changes. Once a prototype is approved, the product has to be configured in our software system. This involves creating part numbers for each part and linking them up with our inventory system and our manufacturing system. This all amounts to defining the processes and steps by which the item is ordered and manufactured. Photo samples are built and photographed and the product literature is produced. Samples are also sent to U.L. for testing.
Pursuitist:Is it more exciting to work alone or have a team of designers by your side?
Doyle Crosby: I do my conceptual work alone and I like it that way. I tend to get completely absorbed when I am working up a design. I am in my own world. I enjoy working with engineering to iron out the details and collaborating to solve problems. It is nice to have other designers around so that you can bounce ideas off each other. I have enjoyed doing that too.
Pursuitist: With so much experience behind you, how do you see the lighting market in the future?
Doyle Crosby: The need for energy efficiency is driving change in lighting. The technology has really taken off in the last few years and the progress seems to be accelerating. This has created a great deal of turmoil in the industry. There is no way to know what new sources will become available and it is difficult to know what impact they will have on lighting design as a whole. LEDs are the biggest thing happening at the moment and our suppliers are upgrading their lighting packages monthly. The new LED packages available today are enabling us to do things that we could not have done a couple of months ago. There are, however, so many fixtures out there that require a medium based light bulb, that bulb manufacturers have to develop new energy efficient lamps in that configuration. That is happening now and will continue to happen. So, I believe there will be entirely new types of light fixtures and there will also be fixtures that are similar to the current ones in both construction and function.
The aesthetic side of the equation is always evolving but I think this is a particularly interesting point in time. On one hand, there has not been any major new movement in design in quite some time. On the other hand, globalization has caused unprecedented interaction between cultures and this has resulted in a flood of new influences as well as new markets. Perhaps there are so many cultural perspectives in the world market that it can’t coalesce around a new design direction until our various perspectives have begun to meld into one. Since new movements in art and design arise in reaction to the status quo, we may need to develop a global status quo to which we can react. For now, I welcome and embrace the opportunity to explore, reinterpret and apply these perspectives to my own designs. I feel there is great freedom and much possibility in that.
Pursuitist: What is the most important thing to consider when choosing a lighting fixture?
Doyle Crosby: Performance, aesthetics, longevity and efficacy are all important considerations and the order of importance may vary depending upon the application and the person or persons who are choosing. It is perfectly legitimate to emphasize any or all of these considerations. I would say, first make sure that there isn’t anything about the fixture that you won’t want to live with. You probably won’t be happy with a beautiful fixture if it hurts your eyes to use it. Conversely, you probably will not be satisfied with a fixture that performs well if you don’t like the way it looks in the space it occupies. You may not want to pay the premium for a really well built fixture if it is only going to be used temporarily. But, you will not be happy with a fixture that only lasts a short time if you intend to keep it for a long time. Efficacy is more important to some people than to others. It is also more important for a fixture that is turned on a lot than for one that is turned on only occasionally. So, I would recommend that you take a good look at each of these four aspects before choosing.
Pursuitist: How did you choose your lights for your home?
Doyle Crosby: I used Boyd Lighting fixtures in my home, so longevity was not a concern. I choose fixtures that gave me the type of light I wanted and had the look I wanted. I used fluorescent or halogen in almost every fixture. Those were the most efficacious sources available at the time. I have Tilt 36’s in the kitchen for task lighting. I have a Diana Pendant over the dining table. I used Aero wall brackets in the living room and family room. I used several other fixtures that are no longer in the line. I live in an Eichler and most of the rooms have no outlet boxes for wall or ceiling fixtures so we have to rely on floor and table lamps for both general and task lighting. That is apparently what the architect intended.